December 12, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT

Newsroom Outsourcing?


The Wall Street Journal has said it will begin running the "Breakingviews" Wall Street column daily. It's a column of stock-market commentary produced by an outside group, including former Financial Times reporters— and a move that smacks of the Journal outsourcing its core news coverage.

Not only is management closing the Journal's Canadian bureaus and firing Journal correspondents in Canada, they no longer are willing to pay our own staff reporters to provide the high-quality coverage that is central to the mission of The Wall Street Journal.

Worse, this is the most sensitive kind of reporting that The Wall Street Journal produces.

Stories that have the potential to move markets can lead to serious problems— and have, at other publications as well as at the Journal, where a reporter in the 1980s was caught selling advance tips about his stories to Wall Street traders. That reporter went to jail and the Journal suffered the worst scandal in its history. In response to that scandal, the Journal set up extensive internal controls to prevent such a thing ever from happening again here.

When it produces news in-house, the Journal and Dow Jones can ensure that strong controls are in place to prevent this kind of abuse. Once it relinquishes that control to an outsider— whoever that outsider is— the famous and time-tested Dow Jones guarantee of quality becomes that much weaker. That's particularly true if the outsider has a wide range of clients with competing interests.

Is this the formula for the WSJ of the future— homogenized news, prepared by outsiders who don't ask for healthcare or retirement, and who can't talk back?

For the cynics who always thought the Journal's new masters were prepared to sacrifice quality in the name of cost cutting, this might prove to be the smoking gun.

We certainly hope not.

Steve Yount

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